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01 Apr 1929 1
Death:
17 Nov 2006 1
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Full Name:
Glenn E Schembechler 1
Birth:
01 Apr 1929 1
Death:
17 Nov 2006 1
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Last Residence: Ann Arbor, MI 1
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Bo Schembechler, Football Great of Michigan, Dies

  Bo Schembechler, who took the University of Michigan to 13 Big Ten championships and a host of bowl appearances in becoming one of college football’s most renowned coaches, died today after collapsing during the taping of a television show. He was 77.

Enlarge This Image Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Bo Schembechler, who died Friday, compiled a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89 and was seven-time Big Ten coach of the year. More Photos »

Multimedia Slide Show Bo Schembechler, 1929-2006

His death was confirmed by Mike Dowd, chief investigator with the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office in Michigan. WXYZ-TV in Southfield, Mich., said Schembechler became ill and collapsed at 11:42 a.m. while taping a show at that station and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died.

Schembechler’s death came a day before the second-ranked University of Michigan Wolverines were to play the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio — the latest showdown in the century-old rivalry between the teams.

When Schembechler became Michigan’s head coach in 1969, its glory years under Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler were long gone. The 100,000-seat Michigan Stadium had seldom been filled in recent seasons, and the Michigan band was finding fewer occasions to hail the maize and blue with the marching song “The Victors.” The Wolverines had gone to the Rose Bowl only once in the previous 18 years.

But on Nov. 22, 1969, Schembechler put his stamp on a new day for Michigan with its 24-12 upset over top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State and Coach Woody Hayes, his former mentor.

Schembechler coached at Michigan for 21 seasons, taking his teams to 17 bowl games, including 10 Rose Bowls, with stars like quarterbacks Jim Harbaugh and Rick Leach, running backs Butch Woolfolk, Jamie Morris, Rob Lytle and Leroy Hoard, wide receiver Anthony Carter and offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf and Reggie McKenzie.

Usually emphasizing the ground game and always preaching strong defense, Schembechler had a record of 194-48-5 at Michigan. He was the winningest coach in school history. When he retired after the 1989 season with a record of 234-65-8 — encompassing 6 seasons at Miami of Ohio and the 21 years at Michigan — he had more career victories than any Division I coach then active.

There were, however, some setbacks. Schembechler’s Michigan teams were only 2-8 in the Rose Bowl, and he never took Michigan to a national championship.

Schembechler was the epitome of blazing intensity. He paced the sidelines, waving his arms and sometimes smashing headsets when the referees incurred his ire. He had a heart attack hours before Michigan’s 1970 Rose Bowl game against Southern California and underwent heart-bypass surgery. He had open-heart surgery again in 1987. But his combativeness barely dimmed, and to his players he was always an imposing presence.

“It’s like this big balloon walking behind you,” Hoard, the star fullback, told The New York Times during Schembechler’s last season. “Sometimes I have this dream. You know those big balloons they have on the floats in the Thanksgiving Day parades? It’s like one of those balloons is the head of Bo and it’s following me.”

Glenn Edward Schembechler was born and reared in Barberton, Ohio, the son of a firefighter. He gained his nickname when his sister Marge could say only “Bobo” while trying to call him “brother.”

Schembechler was an offensive lineman at Miami of Ohio when Hayes was the head coach, and he was an assistant to Hayes at Ohio State for five seasons before returning to Miami of Ohio as its head coach in 1963.

Schembechler was especially remembered for The Ten Year War — his Michigan teams’ battles against Hayes and Ohio State from 1969 to 1978 in one of the game’s biggest rivalries. Schembechler gained a slight edge, 5-4-1.

Schembechler spoke of those games between the Big Ten’s perennial powerhouses in “Bo” (Warner, 1989), an autobiography written with Mitch Albom. “It was everything I lived for,” he wrote. “Win, and you were in heaven. Buckeyes against Wolverines. Woody against me.”

But Schembechler told also of his debt to Hayes. “His temper was, at times, inexcusable,” Schembechler said in the book. “But he shaped me and everything I do with a stamp of passion and strength.”

Schembechler was also athletic director at Michigan from July 1988 to January 1990. Just before the 1989 N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, he removed Bill Frieder as the basketball coach after learning that Frieder had agreed to become the Arizona State coach the following season. Steve Fisher, an assistant coach, guided Michigan to the tournament championship, then was named by Schembechler as the new head coach.

After retiring from Michigan in 1990, Schembechler, a left-hander pitcher in college, was named president and chief operating officer of the Detroit Tigers, a post given to him by the owner, Tom Monaghan, a longtime supporter of Michigan athletics. But Monaghan fired Schembechler in August 1992, together with Jim Campbell, the Tigers’ chairman, a week after agreeing to sell the team to Mike Ilitch.

At the height of his fame, Schembechler was the state of Michigan’s pre-eminent sports figure. He also became something of a philosopher.

“Football is the American game that typifies the old American spirit,” he said. “It’s physical. It’s hard work. It’s aggressive. It’s kind of a swashbuckling American sport. Football is not going to die. It is our American heritage.”

Schembechler collapses, dies at 77

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In the end, Michigan vs. Ohio State may have been too much for Bo Schembechler's failing heart.

The man with half-century-old roots to The Game died at age 77 on Friday -- the eve of perhaps the biggest matchup in the storied rivalry's history, No 1 vs. No. 2, and his doctor said it might have been because of all the excitement.

 

Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesBo Schembechler won 194 games as head coach at Michigan.

 

Schembechler, who became one of college football's great coaches in two decades at Michigan, collapsed at the studios of WXYZ-TV in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, where he taped a weekly show. He was pronounced dead a little more than two hours later at nearby Providence Hospital.

"It's fair to say Bo wanted to live his life with vigor," said Dr. Kim Eagle, Schembechler's physician. "Ironically, he and I were going to see each other yesterday, but he wanted to address the team."

Could the stress of Saturday's game have caused his death?

"I believe that's entirely possible," Eagle said.

Schembechler had a device that worked as a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted just last month after his heart raced as he left the same TV studio.

Doctors said he didn't have a heart attack Friday as much as his heart just quit working.

"The electrical part of the heart was working fine, but the mechanical part was not working," said Dr. Shukri David, the hospital's head of cardiology. "The heart was sending signals to the heart muscle to contract. The muscle was not responding."

 

was nothing new for Schembechler. He had a heart attack on the eve of his first Rose Bowl in 1970 and another one in 1987, and had two quadruple heart-bypass operations. He also had diabetes.

"The fact that he lived to this day is nothing short of a miracle," Eagle said.

Schembechler played for Woody Hayes at Miami of Ohio, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for Hayes at Ohio State and then, in his first season at Michigan in 1969, knocked off Hayes' unbeaten Buckeyes.

"This is an extraordinary loss for college football," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said in a statement. "Bo Schembechler touched the lives of many people and made the game of football better in every way. He will always be both a Buckeye and a Wolverine and our thoughts are with all who grieve his loss."

This year's Michigan players, who were toddlers when Schembechler's career was winding down in the late 1980s, were somber Friday afternoon as they left the building that bears his name and boarded buses for the 3½-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who was hired by Schembechler in 1980, wiped a tear off his cheek as he sat in the front row of the first bus that pulled out of Ann Arbor.

"We have lost a giant at Michigan and in college football," Carr said in a statement. "There was never a greater ambassador for the University of Michigan, or college football, than Bo. Personally, I have lost a man I love."

Schembechler's health prevented him from traveling to road games in recent years, but he planned to watch the 103rd Michigan-Ohio State matchup at home on his new 50-inch TV.

A moment of silence is planned before the game.

Schembechler was a seven-time Big Ten coach of the year, compiling a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89. His record in 26 years of coaching was 234-65-8. He never had a losing season.

"I'm not sure he has gotten his due as far as being one of the truly great football coaches of all time," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I'm going to miss him."

Schembechler was 11-9-1 against the Buckeyes. From 1969-78 he opposed Hayes in what's known as "The 10-Year War" and Michigan was 5-4-1 during that stretch.

"It was a very personal rivalry," Earle Bruce, who succeeded Hayes as coach, once said. "And for the first and only time, it was as much about the coaches as it was about the game.

"Bo and Woody were very close because Bo played for Woody at Miami of Ohio, then coached with him at Ohio State. But their friendship was put on hold when Bo took the Michigan job because it was the protege against mentor."

Thirteen of Schembechler's Michigan teams either won or shared the Big Ten championship. Fifteen of them finished in The Associated Press Top 10, with the 1985 team finishing No. 2.

Seventeen of Schembechler's 21 Michigan teams earned bowl berths, but despite a .796 regular-season winning percentage, his bowl record was a disappointing 5-12, including 2-8 in the Rose Bowl.

The mythical national championship eluded Schembechler, but he said that never bothered him.

"If you think my career has been a failure because I have never won a national title, you have another think coming," Schembechler said a few weeks before coaching his final game. "I have never played a game for the national title. Our goals always have been to win the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl. If we do that, then we consider it a successful season."

His last game as Wolverines coach was a 17-10 loss to Southern California in the 1990 Rose Bowl. One week later, Schembechler, who also had been serving as Michigan athletic director since July 1988, was hired as president of the Detroit Tigers.

Schembechler's signature moment as athletic director probably came in March 1989, when basketball coach Bill Frieder accepted a job at Arizona State on the eve of the NCAA Tournament.

An angry Schembechler declared, "A Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man." He refused to accept Frieder's 21-day notice and named assistant Steve Fisher the interim coach. The Wolverines went on to win the national championship by beating Seton Hall 80-79 in overtime.

Schembechler's tenure as Tigers president from 1990-92 was less rewarding.

He was blamed for firing beloved broadcaster Ernie Harwell after the 1991 season, but WJR general manager Jim Long later said he was the one who did not want Harwell back. Schembechler hired extra coaches for every farm team, upgraded all the facilities and introduced football-style strength and conditioning programs. But those moves bore little fruit at the big-league level.

The Tigers' last winning season was in 1993 until they advanced to the World Series this season.

Tigers owner Tom Monaghan fired Schembechler as Tigers president the day before he sold the team to Mike Ilitch in August 1992 -- and 13 days before Schembechler's wife, Millie, died at age 63 of adrenal cancer. Schembechler sued, claiming Monaghan had broken a contract the Domino's Pizza owner had jotted down on a napkin. They settled out of court in 1994.

Schembechler was an intense disciplinarian, and his gruff persona belied devotion to his players, both during and after their playing days in Ann Arbor.

"He preached the team from Day One, and it's still being taught now," offensive guard Reggie McKenzie, who played for Schembechler from 1969-71, said when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

McKenzie said Schembechler's iron hand almost prompted him to quit. But he added: "I learned to beat him by doing it the right way every time, all the time. That's the attitude we had at Michigan."

Schembechler was born April 1, 1929, in Barberton, Ohio. He graduated in 1951 from Miami of Ohio and earned a master's degree in 1952 at Ohio State.

After serving in the Army, Schembechler held assistant coaching jobs at Presbyterian College in 1954 and Bowling Green in 1955, then joined Ara Parseghian's staff at Northwestern in 1958 before returning to Ohio State as an assistant to Hayes.

Schembechler became head coach at Miami of Ohio in 1963, winning two Mid-American Conference titles in six seasons. In 1969, he took over a Michigan program that had endured losing seasons in six of the previous 11 years.

Schembechler was inducted into the Miami University Hall of Fame in 1972, the State of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1992, the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1993.

Bo and Millie Schembechler, his second wife, had one son, Glenn III. Schembechler and his third wife, Cathy, married in 1993.

"We truly lost a great man, husband, coach and mentor," former Michigan running back Billy Taylor, who played on Schembechler's first team in 1969, said from his car outside Schembechler Hall. "People like Bo come around once in a lifetime."

 

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